Guest review by The Irredeemable Shag. Check out his blog at Firestorm Fan!
Release Date: August 23, 2000
Cover Date: October 2000
Story: Jay Faerber
Pencils: Ron Randall
Inks: Dan Davis
Cover: Cary Nord and Mark Lipka
Following the events of Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1, Firestorm and the Green Lantern Manhunter robot (referred to as “G.L.”) search for the one thing that can stop Oblivion, a mysterious weapon known as the Omega Option. Firestorm follows a hunch which leads them to investigate an unknown planet that has been ravaged by some unknown force. Firestorm and G.L. encounter the planet’s inhabitants who agree to provide the Omega Option in exchange for help defeating the “Fire God” that devastated their world. A battle ensues and the “Fire God” is revealed to be Professor Martin Stein in the form of the Firestorm Elemental. Unfortunately, traveling the cosmos with overwhelming power has driven Ronnie Raymond’s former partner mad and he’s lost touch with his humanity. Some quick thinking by G.L. helps re-ignite Professor Stein’s human emotions and the situation is defused. The planet’s inhabitants reveal they do not possess the Omega Option, they only claimed that to secure the heroes assistance. The Professor Stein Elemental commits himself to aiding the planet’s inhabitants while Ronnie and G.L. are called away by Kyle Rayner to help stop Oblivion.
If you were a fan of Firestorm back in the year 2000, then you were starved for Nuclear Man content. After Extreme Justice closed up shop in 1996, ol’ Match-Head was pretty much relegated to panel backgrounds in major crossovers. You know what I’m talking about; the kind of crossovers where they march out all the limbo-living characters just to fill a crowd scene. “Sure kids, Batman is in the front row, but look in the background — there’s Firestorm…and Beefeater…and Yazz.”
Being part of this fifth week event was really exciting for us Firestorm fans! Firestorm was headlining a one-shot! It was even more exciting for me as this era of Green Lantern was my favorite! I was really drawn to Kyle Rayner (no pun intended). In hindsight, Kyle’s youthful optimism and larger-than-life powers probably reminded me of Firestorm in some ways.
First, can we talk about Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1? Y’know, the comic written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Norm Breyfogle. Poor Firestorm, talk about slumming it with creators. OMG! Seriously, Vaughan and Breyfogle! How awesome is that?!?! Norm Breyfogle (my favorite Batman artist) drew some beautiful shots of the Nuclear Man.
Also, I really enjoyed Ronnie Raymond’s relationship with Ray Palmer in Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1. We’d seen Ronnie tutored by Ray previously, but this helped cement the concept of teacher and student. Given the circumstances, Ray Palmer made a great stand-in for Professor Martin Stein. In fact, Ronnie in the current “New 52″ series The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men could probably use some similar guidance. At the time when Circle of Fire was published, I wanted to see more of Ronnie and Ray along with Firestorm and the Atom. Just imagine if Ray had joined the Firestorm matrix! He would have brought his scientific know-how, along with his ability to shrink. Those adventures would have been atomically cool!!!
Okay, now let’s talk about Green Lantern and Firestorm the Nuclear Man. I’m not going to mince words — this was not a good comic. Sorry, I was disappointed back in 2000 and I was disappointed again when I re-read it for this review.
Sadly, the writing by Jay Faerber was clunky. His work on Noble Causes and Dynamo 5 is highly regarded, which makes this story doubly-disappointing. The characterization was weak throughout the issue. Firestorm’s normal hot-headedness was greatly exaggerated and he inexplicably lost his temper several times. The robotic G.L. didn’t seem to have a consistent personality. At first it seemed they were going for the cold, calculating robot shtick with G.L., but that was quickly abandoned. The planet’s inhabitants our heroes protected were also blank slates. The reader felt bad for the devastation of their planet, but beyond that they have no discernible characteristics (other than the female Captain provided a little cheesecake to the comic).
I also had concerns with the plot. Out of the billions upon billions of worlds in the cosmos, Firestorm used his gut instinct to pick some random planet to search for the Omega Option. What? Sure it moved the story forward, but it was hard to get past this illogical plot device.
The piece that bothered this match-head most was the “rogue” Elemental aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Elemental incarnation of Firestorm. I was just disappointed to see the Elemental lose touch with his humanity… again. This concept was explored previously in the Firestorm series itself, and again in Extreme Justice. Admittedly, not everyone had read Extreme Justice (after all, it hadn’t yet reached the appreciation level of Watchmen or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), but it was still ground previously covered.
The art was also something of a letdown after Norm Breyfogle’s pencils in the first part. Artist Ron Randall is best known (well, best known by me) as one of the artists on Justice League International (formerly Justice League Europe; not to be confused with the good JLI series). Randall’s artwork is serviceable in this issue, but not the stand-out work of the crossover. Probably Randall’s most interesting renderings are of the planet’s inhabitants.
Now the cover by Cary Nord is a whole different matter! Nord is one of my all-time favorite Daredevil artists. I was very excited to see Firestorm rendered by this fantastic artist! If you’ve got the issue, take a good look at Firestorm’s hair. Between Nord and the coloring, it took on a three-dimensional sense. Impressive!
Overall, while the Green Lantern and Firestorm the Nuclear Man comic was disappointing, it was great seeing Firestorm back in action. Especially during a period of time when Firestorm appearances were few and far between. If the issue had been written and drawn by the same team that produced Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1, then I think this could have been a fantastic comic.